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Adolf Hitler and the “stab-in-the-back” Legend

17 Mar

Adolf Hitler’s commitment to his “stab-in-the-back” theory clouded his judgment and decision-making of war aims with the United States. He was so convinced that the Great War was lost due to Imperial Germany’s decision to surrender with no consideration given to American military might and her entry into the war in 1917. Notes Gerhard Weinberg in Germany Hitler & World War II: “During the years of his chancellorship before 1939, German policies designed to implement the project of war with the United States had been conditioned by two factors: belief in the truth of the stab-in-the-back legend on the one hand and the practical problems of engaging American military power on the other.”[1] There exists a contradiction of sorts here with the dilemma for Hitler. On the one hand, The US and Western Powers did not win the Great War – Germany quit, or surrendered. At the same time the US does exist as a military power pre-World War II – and how does Nazi Germany manage and strategize for this actuality?

The United States’ great distance from Germany and Europe was perceived as a stumbling block towards engaging America in war. These challenges of distance influenced the direction of aviation and naval design and their inherent strategies. Long-range bombers with the capability of reaching the American east coast from northwest Africa became prototypes in 1940. The ban on military planes for Germany as set forth by the Treaty of Versailles meant that Hitler and his aviation planners had to start from scratch. [2] The direction of Axis naval design was to larger, “superbattleships” of better quality than that possessed by the Allies; capable of withstanding the rigors of naval warfare against the larger American navy. [3] It was fortuitous for the Allies that Germany and Japan were never able to achieve a truly cooperative joint naval effort in either ocean.

The realities of the new balance of power created post-World War I were dramatically misread by Hitler – he so blinded by the stab-in-the-back rage. Hitler felt the United Sates was “incapable of serious effort on the international scene” – largely because of his racial views.[4] What had in-fact occurred after the Great War was the strengthening of the United States by the events of the war as offered by Weinberg in A World At Arms: A Global History of World War II: “Its industrial and actual or potential military power could be expected to become even greater into the distant future; and the articulation by President Woodrow Wilson of American ideals, projected onto the world scene by his oratory, made many look to him and his views as harbingers of a new world order.”[5]

Footnotes
1 Gerhard L. Weinberg, Germany Hitler & World War II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) 196.
2 Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich at War (New York: Penguin Press, 2009) 5.
3 Gerhard L. Weinberg, Germany Hitler & World War II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) 197.
4 Ibid., 194.
5 Gerhard L. Weinberg, A World At Arms: A Global History of World War II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994) 10.

Bibliography
Evans, Richard J. The Third Reich at War. New York: Penguin Press, 2009.
Weinberg, Gerhard L. A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II, 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Page references are to the 2005 edition.
Weinberg, Gerhard L. Germany Hitler & World War II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

 
 

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